💯DAYS in AK💚A WEEK IN FAIRBANKS💚



WEDNESDAY

ALASKAN STOP #11


TANANA VALLEY CAMPGROUND

FAIRBANKS, AK



We had our shortest travel day of our entire journey today, there are only 3.2 miles between the Walmart parking lot in Fairbanks and the campground we are staying in for the next week.


This post is going to be a little bit different format than most of the previous ones. We are here in Fairbanks for an entire week and we have a lot of planned activities. So I'm going to outline our itinerary in words and then share all the photos in one slideshow at the end.


WEDNESDAY - We arrived at the Tanana Valley Campground and RV Park around 1PM, only to find out they don't open the check-in office until around 2PM, even though the sign on the door says NOON and the website says 1PM, welcome to Alaska Time (very similiar to Key West Island Time, only 4 hours different). Later in the day Winston and VerJean checked in too.


Our rear view out of Campsite #8 at Tanana Valley Campground.


THURSDAY - At 9AM we were outside of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Museum of the North when they opened. Winston and VerJean joined us a little later and we spent several hours looking around at the displays and artifacts. At 11AM we watched a 30 minute documentary movie all about the Aurora Borealis, then we went in search for lunch.


The Museum of the North on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

We ended up a short distance from the university's campus at a taco shop called Lane's Quickie Tacos. They were quick, but more importantly, they were fresh and delicious.

Your admitance to the museum is good for the whole day, as long as you save your receipt, so we headed back to finish up what we missed. That incuded two more short movies about whales and dinosaurs.

We previously made plans with Winston and VerJean to eat dinner together at 6PM at the Alaska Salmon Bake Restaurant. It is located next door to Pioneer Park, which has a couple dozen early 1900s original homes from all round Fairbanks that have been relocated to the park. They are arranged just like they would be on a main street through town and now are home to museums, gift shops, craft stores, food vendors and other such attractions. They even have a retired paddlewheeler ship in the center of the park and the best thing is the admittance, the entire park is FREE.


FRIDAY - Winston and VerJean left this morning to go explore the northern reaches of the Dalton Highway and we have a 2PM sail upon the Riverboat Discovery Tour. We left THE POD early enough to fill up with gas and revisit Lane's Quickie Taco for lunch, it's just that good.

If you haven't guessed by now we were the first ones in line at 1:20PM for the 1:45PM boarding and 2PM sailing of the 3-hour tour aboard the Discovery III. The couple who lined up behind us were from Michigan and currently living in Texas, they're here on their 40th wedding anniversary and sat next to us on the shaded upper deck on the port side of the ship. That's where the best views were to be found of the bush pilot take off and water landing demonstration, the summertime dog mushing exercises and the native village excursion at the half point point of the trip.

On the way home from the cruise we went to check out a couple of monuments and locate some FREE parking ideas for the Midnight Sun Festival that will occupy nine square blocks in the downtown area tomorrow afternoon. Also on our way home we stopped by the baseball stadium and purchased two tickets for Tuesday's game (more on that later).


SATURDAY - This morning at 9:30AM Alaska Time, 1:30PM Eastern Time, Tricia and I had a Zoom Meeting scheduled with her aunt/uncle, cousins and niece/nephew. Tricia will from time to time send them postcards and small gifts from our travels as a way to stay in touch. This Zoom Meeting idea is way so much better!

After the zoom meeting we loaded up into ROVER and headed downtown to the Visitor's Center parking lot to spent the afternoon exploring around the Midnight Sun Festival activities. As with most street festivals there were numerous booths of all different kinds of food, crafts and souvenirs. They also had four seperate stages where live local bands performed in 45-minute sets. We spent about 3-hours checking out the scene before heading back to THE POD.

Several times we have passed by the wildlife viewing area of the Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge located just down the street from the campground. This time we stopped to check it out and saw an estimated 100 sand hill cranes out in the field. About 50 of them were up close to the parking lot and the other 50 were further back under a tree. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, the 50 near us all took flight and moved towards the back with the rest of them. It was quite a sight!


SUNDAY - We are taking a day off, well not completely. We do have a couple of chores to take care of, like filling a couple of our 3-gallon filtered drinking water jugs and getting one of our 30lb. propane tanks refilled, but nothing that has to be done at any certain time.

The reason for the day off is because we have a very full calendar of events for our final two days in Fairbanks. THE POD will be in Fairbanks, but ROVER and the TWO PEAS will not. I'll fill you in on those details tomorrow.


MONDAY - Today, nothing went like it was planned!

The plan was simple, drive to the Artic Circle, take a photo in front of the famous sign, meet up with Winston and VerJean, then get a good night's sleep in our tent at the BLM campground located just behind the sign. Then the next morning we would drive back to Fairbanks. What could go wrong!

The day started just fine, we were on the road by 8:00AM for our 5-hour drive up to the Artic Circle. First we had to drive 70-miles just to get to the beginning of the Dalton Highway. We stopped to take a photo of ROVER in front of the Dalton Highway sign and prepared ourselves for a bumpy ride.

At Mile Post 56 the Dalton Highway crosses over the Yukon River. There is a BLM office there and it's where we first heard news about a wildfire near the campground. Across the street is a restaurant/gas station where we ate and filled ROVER with 12-gallons of $6.89 gas. That's right, we are in the middle of nowhere and that's what it cost to fill your tank. But back in Fairbanks (126 miles away now) the price was only $5.59 for the same gallon.

It seems ironic that all day long now we have been traveling parallel to the Alaska Pipeline which is capable of carrying 2-million barrels a day of crude oil south to Valdez, but ROVER doesn't run on crude oil, it has to be refined into gasoline and that takes place some 500 miles south, then trucked 145 miles back north to this location.

P.S. - When we returned to Fairbanks I found gas for $4.96 at one station near the airport, while everywhere else it was still $5.59, thanks GasBuddy!

But I have digressed a little from our sightseeing storyline so let's get back to the action. Just a few miles short of the Artic Circle Sign we began seeing smoke on the horizon. Then just one mile short of the sign there was a roadblock. We were informed that the road was not closed (yet) but that no one could stop at the sign or enter the BLM campground.

The campground was being used as the firefighting headquarters and they were battling the small fire with two small aircraft that are specially equipped to dump large amounts of water from onboard bladders. In between the dumping of the water the road was opened to through traffic only. What do we do?

Winston and VerJean are already on the other side of this roadblock and heading south to meet us at this closed campground. There are other places to camp, but they are another 60 miles or more farther north. We went ahead and drove past the roadblock when permitted knowing that we have to pass Winston and VerJean on the road somewhere, it's the only road around for hundreds of miles in this region of the Artic.

Sure enough, 45-miles later, we see them coming at us and begin blinking our headlights and then honking our horn at them. We both briefly stop in the middle of the road, there is very little traffic, and discuss the situation. We decide to travel another 15-miles north to the aptly named tiny town of Coldfoot, AK (pop. 34) and figure things out.

While sitting on the outside covered wooden deck of the only bar in town it begins to rain, big Alaska sized drops too! We were supposed to be tent camping tonight and the rain doesn't really get absorbed into the ground due to it being mostly frozen tundra around here. I asked at the front desk how much the very rustic rooms (the kind with shared bathrooms at the end of the hall) cost for one night and figured $100 would be as much as I was willing to pay. Nope, they were $249 a night, why? I guess because there are no other accommodations within several hundred of miles of here.

We passed on taking a hotel room and I wasn't willing to put up a tent in a puddle, so we opted to sleep in the front seat of ROVER while parked outside of the main building. By 11PM we were all tucked in and by midnight we had been awakened twice by 18 wheelers filling up with fuel just about ten yards from where we were parked.

At 12:15AM we were on the road headed south to locate a quiet roadside pullout with a bathroom to spend the night. Just 15 minutes later we were trying to get comfortable again when I suggested we just drive the 6+ hours home and sleep in THE POD. And that's just what we did!

At the moment of the summer solstice, 1:13AM, we were still a few miles inside of the Artic Circle near the Gobblers Knob overlook. So we accomplished most of our original idea for the day, all except for that whole part about sleeping and using a tent. Still it was a good day! One we won't forget!


TUESDAY - We got to sleep around 6:30AM and were both awake by 11:00AM, no rest for the weary.

We have plans and things to do today so let's get moving!

ROVER was a mess after traveling nearly 500 miles yesterday and half of that was on the muddy Dalton Highway after the rain. After filling up with gasoline I found a laudromat with a car wash next door, how convenient, two birds with one stone like.

Time to head back to THE POD and get ready for the 117th Annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game. They start the game at 10:00PM and never use any artifical light to illuminate the field, they don't have to, it's the summer solstice and the sun never goes below the horizon today when you are this far north.


FYI - Tomorrow we move to Denali National Park for a week!






SCENES FROM AROUND FAIRBANKS



"Otto" greets everyone into the Main Exhibit Room at the Museum of the North.
This bowhead whale skeleton hangs from the ceiling at the museum.
This hand crafted fish basket also hung from the ceiling.
These 10,000 year old mammoth tusks, teeth and skulls were huge.
Some very intricate baskets were on display.
These were all made out of wood.
The main entrance to Pioneer Park.
The Presidential traincar that brought President Harding to Alaska.
The Main Street setting of original Fairbanks homes.
The paddlewheeler Nenana.
I just thought this was cool.
Believe it or not! This is the entrance to the Alaska Salmon Bake restaurant.
Our Riverboat Discovery cruise ship awaits us.
We had the entire upper deck to ourselves for a very short time.
This is what the dock looked like after loading 16 tour busses full of people onto the boat.
We had a float plane demonstration with several water takeoffs and landings while on the river cruise.
This is the famous Trail Breaker Kennel where iditarod champions are trained.
These dogs just love to pull sleds, go figure!
Winter clothing, Native Alaskan style.
The style of a remote Alaskan cabin.
Another style of original Alaskan housing.
This sculpture is called Polaris and the center style points directly at the North Star.
This is called the Lend-Lease Monument and tells the story of Russian/American alliances during WW2.
This is obviously an Antler Arch.
These Sandhill Cranes were spotted in Creamer's Field.
A closeup of the cranes.
Our clean ROVER getting ready to travel the Dalton Highway (Haul Road).
Most of the road is just elevated gravel.
A closeup of the road bed.
The Alaska Pipeline parallels most of the highway.
In a few places we got to drive under the pipeline.
The bridge allowed us to cross over the Yukon River.
More of that curvy pipline with dark clouds looming overhead.
Our first look at the wildfire from a distance.
Watch out! Roadblock dead ahead!
Now we are following Winston north of the fire.
It was beautiful up here inside of the Artic Circle.
We are getting closer to Winston and the town of Coldfoot.
This photo was taken at 1:13AM on the Summer Solstice.
Fifteen minutes later and the sun was shining through the mountains.
Around 4:00AM the clouds were building again for another rain.
The playing of the National Anthem was official start of the evening.
At 10:00PM the pressbox announced it was time to "Play Ball".
The first pitch. FYI-The hometown Alaska Goldpanners won the game in extra innings 10-9. We were home in bed when that happened, because we left after the 4th innng when the score was 7-1.



OUR ALASKAN CHALLENGE:
TO VISIT FOR 100+ CONSECUTIVE NIGHTS


COMPLETED

PROGRESS BAR

STILL TO GO
24 76



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TWO PEAS